Striving for the best ideas

At a recent meeting of CEOs, I had the opportunity to hear Bill Campbell present his advice on being a leader.  His career is tremendous, starting as a football coach, then working at Kodak, then jumping over to Silicon Valley where he had top management positions at Apple, Claris, Go and Intuit.  He now is a valley legend and on the board of many companies.

Of the many interesting things he said, one really struck me,  “Don’t go for concensus, go for the best ideas.  A concensus is too often a common denominator solution that won’t piss anyone off.  A consensus is a B.”

In many companies, concensus has become a good thing, as if it is at the core of the company somehow.  I’ve seen it expressed in many ways, from “socializing” an idea before really proposing it, to programs to foster “inclusion” in decision making.  While there is a lot to be said for talking with your colleagues and working to develop a collective best approach, too often consensus becomes an anchor preventing great things from getting done.

In innovation especially, success may require pissing some people off because you are often looking for things outside of the status quo.  Yet you need people to rally around an idea and support it to be effective in an organization.  This is a real challenge.

Bill invites us to think about our role in getting the best, “Your title makes you a managager; your followers make you a leader.”